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Majority sides with hotel in lawsuit stemming from molestation

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A divided Indiana Supreme Court affirmed summary judgment for a hotel, its owner and the hotel franchisor that the hotel’s insurance company had no duty to defend a civil complaint brought by a minor motel guest who was molested by an off-duty employee.

R.H.M. was a guest at the New Castle Holiday Inn Express owned by Anil Megha when employee Michael Forshey entered his locked room at night and molested him. Forshey has been convicted of child molestation. R.H.M.’s mom sued the hotel, the franchisor Holiday Hospitality and Megha, claiming, among other things, battery, negligent retention and supervision, and negligent hiring.

AMCO Insurance Co., which insured the Holiday Inn Express, claimed it owed no coverage for any liability from the complaint and it had no duty to defend any of the defendants. Holiday Hospitality and Megha were listed as additional insureds. The policy expressly disclaimed coverage for acts of molestation or abuse by excluding any bodily injury or personal or advertising injury arising from the actual or threatened abuse or molestation by anyone of any person while in the care, custody or control of the insured.”

The trial court ruled in favor of the defendants, but the Indiana Court of Appeals reversed, finding a genuine issue of material fact as to whether R.H.M. was in the care, custody or control of the hotel at the time of the molestation.

In Holiday Hospitality Franchising, Inc. v. AMCO Insurance Company, 33S01-1206-CT-312, Justice Steven David, writing for the majority, affirmed summary judgment for the insurance company. Focusing on the “care, custody or control” portion of the policy and using those terms’ definitions from Webster’s Dictionary, David and Justices Mark Massa and Loretta Rush found the child was not in the custody or control of the hotel, but he was in the care of the hotel at the time of the molestation.

“Simply put, we believe these facts reflect precisely the sort of scenario contemplated by the parties to be excluded from coverage when they agreed to the insurance contract,” David wrote.  
 
Chief Justice Brent Dickson concurred in a separate opinion, believing the proper understanding of “care” is established by Indiana law that a hotel guest is considered a business invitee and is entitled to a reasonable duty of care. In this case, “care” exists as a matter of law, so the exclusion applies.

Justice Robert Rucker dissented, believing it should be up to the trier of fact as to whether R.H.M. was under the control or care of the hotel.

 

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  1. So that none are misinformed by my posting wihtout a non de plume here, please allow me to state that I am NOT an Indiana licensed attorney, although I am an Indiana resident approved to practice law and represent clients in Indiana's fed court of Nth Dist and before the 7th circuit. I remain licensed in KS, since 1996, no discipline. This must be clarified since the IN court records will reveal that I did sit for and pass the Indiana bar last February. Yet be not confused by the fact that I was so allowed to be tested .... I am not, to be clear in the service of my duty to be absolutely candid about this, I AM NOT a member of the Indiana bar, and might never be so licensed given my unrepented from errors of thought documented in this opinion, at fn2, which likely supports Mr Smith's initial post in this thread: http://caselaw.findlaw.com/us-7th-circuit/1592921.html

  2. When I served the State of Kansas as Deputy AG over Consumer Protection & Antitrust for four years, supervising 20 special agents and assistant attorneys general (back before the IBLE denied me the right to practice law in Indiana for not having the right stuff and pretty much crushed my legal career) we had a saying around the office: Resist the lure of the ring!!! It was a take off on Tolkiem, the idea that absolute power (I signed investigative subpoenas as a judge would in many other contexts, no need to show probable cause)could corrupt absolutely. We feared that we would overreach constitutional limits if not reminded, over and over, to be mindful to not do so. Our approach in so challenging one another was Madisonian, as the following quotes from the Father of our Constitution reveal: The essence of Government is power; and power, lodged as it must be in human hands, will ever be liable to abuse. We are right to take alarm at the first experiment upon our liberties. I believe there are more instances of the abridgement of freedom of the people by gradual and silent encroachments by those in power than by violent and sudden usurpations. Liberty may be endangered by the abuse of liberty, but also by the abuse of power. All men having power ought to be mistrusted. -- James Madison, Federalist Papers and other sources: http://www.constitution.org/jm/jm_quotes.htm RESIST THE LURE OF THE RING ALL YE WITH POLITICAL OR JUDICIAL POWER!

  3. My dear Mr Smith, I respect your opinions and much enjoy your posts here. We do differ on our view of the benefits and viability of the American Experiment in Ordered Liberty. While I do agree that it could be better, and that your points in criticism are well taken, Utopia does indeed mean nowhere. I think Madison, Jefferson, Adams and company got it about as good as it gets in a fallen post-Enlightenment social order. That said, a constitution only protects the citizens if it is followed. We currently have a bevy of public officials and judicial agents who believe that their subjectivism, their personal ideology, their elitist fears and concerns and cause celebs trump the constitutions of our forefathers. This is most troubling. More to follow in the next post on that subject.

  4. Yep I am not Bryan Brown. Bryan you appear to be a bigger believer in the Constitution than I am. Were I still a big believer then I might be using my real name like you. Personally, I am no longer a fan of secularism. I favor the confessional state. In religious mattes, it seems to me that social diversity is chaos and conflict, while uniformity is order and peace.... secularism has been imposed by America on other nations now by force and that has not exactly worked out very well.... I think the American historical experiment with disestablishmentarianism is withering on the vine before our eyes..... Since I do not know if that is OK for an officially licensed lawyer to say, I keep the nom de plume.

  5. I am compelled to announce that I am not posting under any Smith monikers here. That said, the post below does have a certain ring to it that sounds familiar to me: http://www.catholicnewworld.com/cnwonline/2014/0907/cardinal.aspx

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